The thing about writing is that it’s a very solitary process. You sit down and pour the ideas from your head onto the page without anyone filtering them or commenting, at least in the first draft stage. And that’s how it should be. You need that alone time to create your characters, build your story and bring your vision to life.
But one thing I learned this time around is that talking it out can actually help.
Many of us are very secretive about our ideas and our writing. Sometimes that’s because we need the time to work things out for ourselves but often it’s because we fear judgement.
What if I tell someone my idea and they think it sucks?
What if they walk away and laugh at me behind my back?
What if I realise how lame my story is when I actually try to explain it to someone?
And yes, all those fears are absolutely valid. That’s why, if you do decide to speak up and talk your ideas through, it should be with someone you trust. A writing buddy is the perfect choice. I brainstormed ideas for Close To Home with my awesome writing group which helped me throw some plot points out the window and develop others. They’re the people who are most likely to tell you openly and honestly what will work and what won’t. And that’s a good thing.
Another great sounding board might be an ‘ideal reader’. This could be a friend you trust or someone you know who reads and appreciates your writing. This person will be looking at it from the reader’s perspective and by the time you get to the revision stage you should be considering what the reader wants and needs.
If you’re lucky enough to have a partner or family member who can listen and give objective feedback this might also be a good option. There are dangers here though – sometimes those closest to us only tell us what they think we want to hear. Or, conversely, their open criticism could throw us completely off course and sabotage our project. I’ve always been very guarded about showing my writing to my partner until it’s very close to the final version and usually don’t discuss the plot much with him either. This time I hit a particularly nasty block and spent some time brainstorming possible ways out of it with him on more than one occasion. Discussing the problems I was having allowed me to get things straighter in my own head and he was able to offer some good advice which helped steer me back on course.
Talking any problems through with an editor, agent or your publisher helps enormously. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful editor and publisher, both of whom are happy to listen and help me navigate my way through any plot tangles that arise and to give objective feedback on character development and behaviours.
So next time around I’ll definitely be talking and brainstorming more. And I would encourage any writers out there to do the same.